Women Religious Project home gift extends to Kenya

  • September 25, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - In 1999, when the nuns and religious sisters of Toronto decided to build some affordable housing in their city to celebrate the millennium Jubilee along with Pope John Paul II they thought they were addressing an urgent local problem.

Ten years on, as people finally move into their homes in southeast Scarborough, Mughtar Yarow has news for them. (See photos of project homes here .)

Affordable home ownership for Yarow, his wife Halima Amin and their three daughters, Salma, Iman and Nasra, is good for them, but it’s also keeping two extended families alive through a disastrous drought in northeastern Kenya.

“It’s not just the five of us,” said Yarow.

Back home in Kenya, Yarow’s family lives a traditional, nomadic life. Some of Amin’s family has settled in a village, but both branches of the clan are among the 250,000 ethnic Somalis in the area suffering through their second year of drought, failed crops and severe food shortages.

“Generations will simply starve without our monthly contribution,” said Yarow.

It’s not that Yarow is getting rich working in a bank call centre. His salary would never have allowed his family to own a home in the Toronto real estate market — even if he weren’t sending a small amount monthly to help his relatives back home.

Yarow is naturally grateful to the Women’s Religious Project and Habitat for Humanity for their new home, but for the father and new homeowner it’s all about responsibility.

“I know this has taken many people many years,” said Yarow. “We will do everything we can to maintain these homes, be responsible homeowners, be good neighbours.”

For the girls the new house means the novel experience of having their own room. Until they moved in August, the family had been getting by in a two-bedroom apartment in Etobicoke.

“I haven’t ever lived in a house before,” said 10-year-old Iman.

A solution to the family’s housing problem means freedom to think about the future, said Yarow.

“It enables us to do other things for our children,” he said.

Forty different religious congregations representing more than 700 sisters put up $2.3 million to finance affordable housing in the Manse Road-Lawrence Avenue neighbourhood in Scarborough in 2000. Bitter opposition by local residents whittled the project down from more than 90 affordable homes to 54, plus six market-value semi-detached units. The opposition delayed the approvals process over a span of years.

Thirty-eight of the 54 affordable homes in the new neighbourhood were financed by WRP Neighbourhood Housing and built by Daniels Corporation. Habitat for Humanity  built a further 16 affordable homes.

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